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Spacing 101

Spacing with punctuation is not always the same in English and French. These differences often cause us to wonder whether we should leave a space before or after a dash, a question mark or an exclamation point. So, with you in mind, we created this table to help you get your spacing right in both official languages.

Spacing in English

Punctuation mark Before After
apostrophe (within a word)

the woman's hat

no space no space
apostrophe (end of word)

the employees' suggestions

no space 1 space
colon

We'll need the following: a tent, sleeping bags, and good weather.

no space 1 space
comma

She was born on Friday, March 13, 2009.

no space 1 space
dashes

em dash:

Jean's car—a silver Lexus—was stolen last night.

en dash:

pages 84–95

no space no space
decimal point

43.5 hours

no space no space
ellipsis

No spaces before and after points:

There was little he could say…so he said nothing.

1 space 1 space
exclamation point

Wow! That's wonderful!

no space 1 space
hyphen

the bride-to-be

no space no space
oblique (between two letters, symbols or words)

n/a

no space no space
oblique (between groups with internal spacing)

Language and Society / Langue et societé

1 space 1 space
parenthesis or bracket (opening)

The em dash (long dash) is a substitute for the comma, colon or semicolon.

1 space no space
parenthesis or bracket (closing)

Using personal pronouns (I, you, we) helps us write more clearly.

no space 1 space
period

You can drop by tomorrow. I'll be home.

no space 1 space
question mark

What did he say? I wasn't listening.

no space 1 space
quotation marks (opening)

She said, "We have nothing to fear

1 space no space
quotation marks (closing)

but fear itself."

no space 1 space
semicolon

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

no space 1 space

Spacing in French

Punctuation mark Before After
apostrophe no space no space
colon 1 non-breaking space* 1 space
comma no space 1 space
decimal comma no space no space
dashes (em and en) 1 space 1 space
ellipsis no space 1 space
exclamation point no space 1 space
oblique (between two letters, symbols or words) no space no space
oblique (between two groups with internal spacing) 1 space 1 space
parenthesis or bracket (opening) 1 space no space
parenthesis or bracket (closing) no space 1 space
period no space 1 space
question mark no space 1 space
quotation marks (opening) 1 space 1 non-breaking space*
quotation marks (closing) 1 non-breaking space* 1 space
semicolon no space 1 space

*To create a non-breaking space in Word, hold down Ctrl and Shift when you hit the space bar. In WordPerfect, hold down Ctrl when you hit the space bar. For any other word processors, check the special characters section.